By Deacon Michael P. McKeating
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo
Those of you who are movie buffs know that the slang phrase “the usual suspects,” used today in all sorts of conversational settings, comes from one of the greatest movies of all time, the 1943 classic Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
The Usual Suspects can be translated into Italian as “Tipi Loschi.” Tipi Loschi is the name chosen for a Catholic Covenant Community in a small city on the Adriatic Coast called San Benedetto del Tronto. Tipi Loschi was founded by Marco Semarini, his wife and several other couples. They were following the call of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to form small Christian communities that pray, live and work together, “in the world but not of it.”
It was originally started by Semarini and his friends when they were university students, as sort of a faith-sharing and accountability group. They modeled themselves on Blessed Pier Giorgio, concentrating on Catholic social action, prayer, charity, and community. After they graduated and got jobs, they stayed together in a loose community, and as they married, brought their wives into the group. Encouraged by their local Bishop, in 1993 they incorporated under Canon Law as a “Private Association of the Christian Faithful.” They jokingly chose the name Tipi Loschi, which is what Blessed Giorgio Frassati had called his group of followers.
Over the years they grew to about 200 members. In 2008, fed up with the militant secularism and materialism of the public schools, they formed a school of their own, modeled on the writing of G. K. Chesterton. The name of the school is Scuola Libera de G. K. Chesterton. The motto of the school is:
“A dead thing goes along with the stream, only a living thing goes against it.” It is a quote from Chesterton’s book The Everlasting Man, published in 1925.
Ironically, that same month and year that Semarini opened Scuola Libera, the first Chesterton Academy in the United States was opened by Dale Ahlquist in Minneapolis, MN. Now fast friends, the two men did not know each other at the time, nor did either know the other was starting a school called Chesterton Academy. Both schools are now part of the Chesterton Network of Schools, of which Chesterton Academy of Buffalo is also a member.
The curriculum is a classical curriculum, similar to that of the Chesterton Academies in the U.S. The school is a work of Tipi Loschi, which is what we in the U.S. would call a “covenant community.” In other words, the school is an arm of the community. Community members teach and work at the school, as well as send their children there.
The Scuola Libera de G.K. Chesterton started in 2008 with four students, two of them Semarini’s children. It now has an enrollment upwards of 70, in middle school and high school. Scuola Libera means “Free School, but it is not free in the sense of costing nothing. A Scuola Libera in Italy is a school free of government control. The Italian Constitution guarantees parents the right to control the education of their children. (Imagine that!)
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo was born in 2013 when I was in Rome for the election of Pope Francis, and I stumbled upon students from Scuola Libera and Chesterton Academy of Minneapolis playing soccer. I was impressed that there was something different about them. I asked them who they were. The rest is history. We are now part of“the usual suspects.”